ED-itorial: Welcome to the off season of urgency, Saints fans

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 20: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches action during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 20, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Well, Saints fans, welcome to the off season of urgency.

When the Saints parted ways with five assistant coaches Friday, head coach Sean Payton told the world what he was really thinking.

And, more importantly, he told you what Saints ownership was thinking. Three consecutive years of 7-9 was not only not good enough, it was not going to repeated.

And if it is, the changes will be far more sweeping than the ones done this week.

There was not a more loyal lieutenant than Joe Vitt. For 11 years, he was a constant. Vitt served as interim head coach of the Saints for for 10 games in 2012 during Payton’s season-long suspension.

He was hired by the Saints on January 27, 2006, a lifetime ago in coaching.

Bill Johnson coached the defensive line since the 2009 Super Bowl season.

But for the Saints defense, improvement has been a very tedious process.

Last season, most of it under Rob Ryan, the Saints allowed 476 points.

In 2016, the Saints allowed 454 points. The opposition converted 43 percent on third down.

The solutions for the Saints defense are many.

The talent level must improve dramatically.

So, too, must the coaching.

And so, too, must Payton.

All he has to do is look to the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys are nothing special defensively.

They had 36 quarterback sacks this season, six more than the Saints.

Dallas had nine interceptions; so did the Saints.

But the Cowboys are playing complementary football in an extraordinary way.

With a rookie quarterback, Dallas has limited turnovers, rushed for 654 more yards than the Saints, and had 17 rushes of 40 yards or more this season.

To be fair, Payton emphasized the run more in 2016, as Mark Ingram became the first Saint to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Deuce McAllister in 2006.

But Payton must continue that trend moving forward.

The big winner in Thursday’s announced changes was defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

Allen was brought in last year to assist Rob Ryan, and in 2016 was given the title of defensive coordinator full time.

With a rash of injuries in the secondary, Allen fashioned modest improvement.

Now, he gets to bring in his guys to coach the defensive line and linebackers. Frankly, he deserves that chance.

Payton is correct to give him that opportunity.

If the Saints win next season, Payton and quarterback Drew Brees might continue.

But if the Saints miss the playoffs again, the coach and quarterback era is likely over.

And the fallout will be far more severe than five assistant coaches walking the plank.

Ed Daniels has served as Sports Director for WGNO since 1992. The opinions in this editorial are his own. 

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